Carolina Universities Form Photonics Consortium To Boost Technology Commercialization

Tuan Vo-DinhGetting photonics (light-based) technologies to the marketplace has just gotten easier.

Duke University has joined four Carolina universities in forming the Carolinas Photonics Consortium (CPC). Representatives of North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Western Carolina University, Clemson University and Duke University signed a CPC Inter-Institutional Agreement that establishes a foundation for collaborative university work aimed at the commercialization of photonics or light-based technologies.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring science and technology into the service of society--to translate research from the idea stage to the bench top and ultimately into use on the 'street' so to speak,” said Tuan Vo-Dinh, director of Duke’s Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics in the Pratt School of Engineering. "Each of the partner institutions brings complementary research strengths to the table and we believe that photonics is a strong platform for growth is this region of the state and country."

Photonics-based technologies are used in a wide array of everyday products, including: DVD players, long distance communication, medical and dental surgeries, dash board lighting, missile guidance, and garage door sensors. Photonic technologies are being used to complement or replace electronics in almost every facet of our lives. Recent advances include high intensity lighting, biochemical detection, high powered lasers for manufacturing needs, and early cancer detection.

One of the primary goals of the CPC is the commercialization of photonics-based research by awarding funds to competitively submitted proposals from the five campuses.

“There is a classic gap between great research and realization of the commercial opportunity. CPC provides a bridge to move technology to the marketplace by engaging a world-class collaboration of universities and providing some important seed money to get the commercialization process started,” said Jeff Conley, Interim Director for CPC.

A project proposal program will be formally announced in August, 2007. The new program will provide seed funding for one, photonics-based project from each campus over the next 12 months. The goal of the program is to identify top commercial prospects and provide some initial funding to move the concepts down the path of commercialization. Commercialization support and company development will be provided by the Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Program (TEC) at North Carolina State University. The TEC Program has been supporting technology migration from bench to market domestically and internationally for thirteen years with proven tools and techniques.

“The Carolinas Photonics Consortium has been very active in involving researchers across the five campuses and has moved quickly in establishing a strong collaboration. The region will see significant new business creation as a result of CPC,” notes Sarah Smith, Director of Sponsored Programs for the University of North Carolina General Administration.

Each of the five consortium members has nationally respected programs in photonics. Over $300M has been invested from state and federal funds over the last five years, making CPC the largest concentration of photonics-based resources in the country.

The Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics at Duke has research programs in biophotonics, nano & micro systems, nanophotonics, and quantum optics & information. North Carolina State University’s strengths are in photonic devices, optoelectonic and semiconductor materials and information technology. The Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has a core competence in microoptics and modeling of optical systems. Western Carolina’s Center for Rapid Product Realization provides prototyping, testing and design expertise for new product scale up. Clemson’s Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET) is focused on the development of novel optical materials.